'Yes Men' and the Likelihood of Foreign Policy Mistakes Across Dictatorships

34 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 26 Aug 2009

See all articles by Erica Frantz

Erica Frantz

Bridgewater State University

Natasha M. Lindstaedt

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: 2009

Abstract

In this paper, we look at how institutional differences across dictatorships affect the quality of the military intelligence that dictators receive from their subordinates. We argue that when dictators have a say in the selection of their elite advisory group, this lessens the caliber of intelligence and increases the likelihood that dictators will make foreign policy errors. We analyze this dynamic in personalist, military, and single-party dictatorships. We show that personalist dictators have a greater say in the selection of their advisory group than military or single-party dictators do and, as a result, are more likely to commit foreign policy blunders. We detail our argument using the case of Iraq under Saddam Hussein. We then test it quantitatively by looking at the likelihood that dictatorships will misread threats sent to them during inter-state disputes. We find positive support: personalist dictatorships exhibit more uncertainty in their responses to threats than do military or single-party dictatorships. When states provoke personalist dictatorships, they should not assume that they are dealing with a predictable and well-informed adversary.

Keywords: dictatorships, authoritarian politics, audience costs, international conflict behavior

Suggested Citation

Frantz, Erica and Lindstaedt, Natasha M., 'Yes Men' and the Likelihood of Foreign Policy Mistakes Across Dictatorships (2009). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1450542

Erica Frantz (Contact Author)

Bridgewater State University ( email )

Bridgewater, MA 02325
United States

Natasha M. Lindstaedt

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available